A lofty ivory tower?
Beware of the wisdom of crowds - or the man in the pub. Some of the cautionary phrases used by BBC folk at an internal audience seminar chaired by the BBC's head of news Helen Boaden. I was on the panel along with the editor of the Guardian, our political editor Nick Robinson and world news editor Jon Williams (you can read Jon's thoughts on the matter below this post, or by clicking here).
Enter Sarah - a 21 year old listener to Radio 1 who gave me some good advice when we met up recently: "No matter how high up in the news you are, at the BBC or whatever, you've got to listen to us, we pay the licence fee... without us you'd be nothing". She's dead right and we ignore audiences today at our extreme peril.
It's not just a lip service thing though, it genuinely makes us editorially richer I believe - serving a young Radio 1 audience who love texting - the moment we stop reading their incoming texts on the stories of the day is the moment I lose touch with the people who make us tick - our 9.3 million listeners.
It's made our news agenda stronger and faster: We were alerted to stories like the dangers of "Snatch" landrovers in Iraq and Afghanistan by our listeners with military connections long before our other BBC network colleagues. And we were better able to gauge listener anger over Norwich Union's decision not to "quote happy" younger drivers on their insurance as well as current street issues on drugs, drink and sex.
It may not be right for all BBC outlets - and journalists still have an important role in checking out the facts and binning the hoaxes as well as sifting and editing the vast range of ideas, info and tips that come flooding in. But why should we be in charge in a lofty ivory tower? If you've got a better idea for a story - a lead - an investigation - just shout.
I am clear where we stand. Without our audience and our daily dialogue with them - we'd be finished.